A few years ago mutilated cats appeared on the streets of Croydon, South London; thanks to DNA now we know what happened
It could be a case for Sherlock Holmes to search for even the smallest clue. Who is the “serial killer” of the London cats? This was the question being asked by the media and it generated quite a stir. Between 2014 and 2018, more than 300 dead cats appeared on the streets of Croydon, a municipality south of the British capital.
The cats were mutilated, headless or tailless, but the attacker was also in charge of leaving the wounds clean. This was the reason that led many to suspect human involvement, although others rejected the suggestion and pointed directly at the foxes.
To find out exactly what happened, Henny Martineau and his team from the UK’s Royal Veterinary College analyzed 32 carcasses of mutilated cats found between 2016 and 2018.
The researchers performed post-mortem examinations of the cats , as well as CT scans, that is, X-ray images by cross-sectional sections. They also cleaned their fur to try to find DNA from other animals such as dogs, foxes or badgers. There were 13 different combinations of body parts that were missing, so it was difficult to spot patterns at first, says Martineau.
THERE WERE ALSO DEATHS FROM NATURAL CAUSES
By conducting a DNA test, the researchers concluded that all the cats had been mutilated by foxes after their death. Examination post mortem revealed that there was no single cause of death among cats and suspected that ten of the 32 cats were killed by foxes analyzed.
Meanwhile, eight likely died of heart or lung failure naturally, while six likely did so after being hit by a vehicle. These findings reinforced the findings of the London Metropolitan Police in 2018.
Martineau thought that the reason so many cats’ tails and heads were cut off is because foxes have weak jaws and head to areas that are easy to eat.
Foxes can also explain the lack of blood at the edges of cat wounds. According to Martineau, the mutilation occurred after the animal had died, so there would be no bleeding after death.
University of Glasgow researcher Kevin Parsons explained that it is difficult to know how many foxes were involved, but it is possible that it was only one or a few, and they realized that cats could be good food.
Also, Croydon is on the outskirts of London and the same would happen again. But it could also be that these foxes are especially “rude” and such behaviors selectively disappear over time, Parsons concluded.